Time is a tricky thing with Natalie Prass.
In 2012, Prass recorded her full-length debut, in her native Virginia, with producers Matthew E. White and Trey Pollard.
And then, nothing.
For three years, the singer-songwriter’s self-titled record sat on the shelf, while her creative life took other directions, including a period living in Nashville and a stint in Jenny Lewis’ backing band.
“Every month that went by was really hard with the hold, but it was like, ‘Well, this is what’s happening and you’ve gotta do it,’” Prass says from a North Carolina tour stop. “I definitely put it away because I just didn’t want to harp on it too much. ... It was pretty crazy when we brought it back up to mix and master it years later. It was like, ‘Wow, it’s really good.’”
Literal time has played a role in the creation of the nine gorgeous songs on Natalie Prass, but so has metaphorical time.
There’s a wonderfully slippery feeling to the album, as if it wasn’t recorded in the 21st century, but the 20th, back in the 1970s, when stylistically diverse and lyrically incisive efforts from singer-songwriters were prevalent.
Whether it’s the soulful, brassy noir of Bird of Prey or the whimsical, Harry Nilsson-esque closer It Is You, Prass’ arresting vocals, coupled with the lush, organic compositions, provide a delightful sense of temporal dislocation.
Critics have flipped for Prass: “Prass is most impressive working within the biggest instrumentation, where her emotional precision acts as a counterweight for all the textural grandiosity,” gushed Pitchfork, while Rolling Stone observed “These songs would be at home in a smoky lounge circa 1973.”
Prass, one of the breakout stars at this year’s South by Southwest, will showcase her acclaimed, long-in-coming songs Friday at Sons of Hermann Hall.
Given the appreciation for a way of making music that’s not exactly embraced by the pop mainstream now, it is utterly unsurprising to learn the 28-year-old Prass laments how the Internet has reshaped how people listen now.
“Remember when Borders was the first way you could listen to the record before you bought it?” she says. “That’s how you discovered stuff, and that didn’t happen until I was a junior in high school — I would just spend hours at Borders listening to everything. I was so amazed.”
But while brick-and-mortar browsing has become an endangered species, the rise of web-enabled music on demand has allowed artists like Prass a way to connect with audiences on a scale that was unthinkable just a decade ago.
“I feel like, more and more, with the more [expletive] that’s being thrown at people, people want to hear something with more meaning,” Prass says. “I feel like a lot of people, more than ever now, are paying attention to really quality stuff. [There’s] this wave of taking your time and making something you think is worthwhile, not just going to make some money.”
Prass has also benefited from friends like fellow singer-songwriter Ryan Adams not only taking her out on the road — he actually dressed in drag and opened one of his own shows as Prass when she missed a flight during a recent European tour — but actively promoting her on social media and in interviews. (She opens for Adams at a pair of Ryman Auditorium shows next week in Nashville.)
The appreciation is mutual, according to Prass.
“There’s just certain musicians you meet and you have the same kind of outlook on how music should be approached, and made and played,” she says. “As soon as I got to know Ryan and he had just such a positive and fresh way of playing music — the best energy, he just approaches everything the right way. And it’s real [expletive] musicians playing these really great songs.
“They’re not afraid to take it somewhere else every night.”
Adams has also offered what Prass describes as “little chunks of wisdom” about her career going forward, some of which sounds downright daring in the age of the quick, glossy hook.
“One thing he said to me was ‘Just make enough music so you can get by; you don’t need to make music so you can’t live anymore,’” Prass says. “‘Just make what’s important to you,’ and that’s exactly what he does. It’s really nice that he’s so supportive.”
Given the years stretching between her debut’s creation and its release, Prass is understandably eager to begin work on her sophomore effort, although her hectic tour schedule (she’s booked through at least September) may delay her immediate return to the studio.
“I’m already working on the next record — writing and planning,” she says. “I’m very excited to start working on it. It’s kind of hard when you’re in the middle of touring, but you’ve gotta do it.”
Once again, time is proving to be touchy, but if there’s one thing Natalie Prass has learned, she’s more than up to the challenge.
Preston Jones, 817-390-7713
9 p.m. Friday
Sons of Hermann Hall, Dallas
$10 advance, $12 day of show